Dems protest subpoenas seeking names of fetal tissue researchers

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Democrats on the committee investigating Planned Parenthood are denouncing Republicans for issuing a new round of subpoenas, some of which call for the names of fetal tissue researchers. 

Democrats warn that revealing the names of those researchers puts their safety at risk.

The chairwoman of the committee, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), on Wednesday informed the ranking member, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), of her plan to issue 17 new subpoenas, Democrats say. 

{mosads}Some of the subpoenas are for organizations that redacted names in previously submitted documents, according to Democrats. 

“There is no legitimate need for the names of researchers, students, clinic personnel and doctors; and amassing a database that could be released publicly at any time is a threat to anyone whose name might be on that list,” Schakowsky said in a statement Thursday. 

Democrats say they were not told which organizations are covered in the new subpoenas. 

A previous round of three subpoenas went to Stem Express, a fetal tissue procurement firm; the University of New Mexico, which conducts medical research using fetal tissue; and Southwestern Women’s Options, an abortion clinic in New Mexico. 

At a hearing of the committee on March 2, Democrats compared those subpoenas, and requests for the names of researchers, to former Sen. Joe McCarthy’s (R-Wis.) investigation of communists in the 1950s. 

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said the committee could be “complicit” in murders of those researchers if their names became public and they are then killed.

Speaking to reporters after the March 2 hearing, Blackburn defended asking for the names of researchers. 

“We are going to continue to have the necessary information, and we are going to do everything possible to protect names and identities,” she said. “You saw that with the exhibits that we brought forward today.”

Asked why the names were needed, Blackburn said only, “to follow the trail.”

Republicans argue that they are carrying out a necessary investigation of the use of fetal tissue, following up on a series of controversial undercover videos last summer that claimed Planned Parenthood was illegally selling fetal tissue for profit. 

Multiple state investigations since then have found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood, and the makers of the videos have been indicted. 

Republicans released emails at the hearing this month, with the names and organizations redacted, discussing the use of fetal tissue. 

“We are now ready to include the skull so if you could please include that in our order for tomorrow that would be great,” one email reads. 

A witness at the hearing, Lawrence Goldstein, a neuroscience researcher at the University of California, responded that there is nothing wrong with researchers requesting “specific regions.”

He defended fetal tissue as vital for disease research and noted that at least one research project on multiple sclerosis has seen its fetal tissue supply “dry up completely” because of concern about the recent publicity.

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